When you think of the classic underground comix anthologies, I guess it all starts with ZAP. And then the way under-rated ARCADE. And then WEIRDO and RAW — who will always be joined at the hip as two sides of the same coin.
RAW never appealed to me — it was too artsy and pretentious for my tastes. I much preferred the skuzzier, funkier, down-to-earth WEIRDO. If the cartoons in RAW were supposed to be appreciated like fine art hanging in a museum, WEIRDO was appreciated while sitting in an over-stuffed easy chair in your underwear while scratching yourself. If RAW was akin to Emerson, Lake and Palmer and prog rock — rock musicians wanting to be taken seriously like classical music. WEIRDO was akin to the Sex Pistols and punk rock — bratty, rebellious and a little smelly.
My friend Duncan got a big spread in WEIRDO #1 when it debuted in 1981. So I felt a part of WEIRDO right from the beginning. Duncan’s cartoons were particularly outrageous (“Duncan is the quintessential underground cartoonist,” said Crumb, and Crumb would know). Which certainly put Duncan on the map. Probably nobody but Crumb would have dared to publish those comics by Duncan. But Crumb was making a statement right from the beginning that he hadn’t lost his affinity for underground comix. And that WEIRDO would be a force to be reckoned with.
I had aspirations myself for a career as an underground cartoonist (along with about a dozen other aspirations I was dabbling in at the time). So I spent several weeks pain-stakingly crafting a batch of cartoons to submit to WEIRDO. As an afterthought I also submitted this one page doodle that I had hacked out off the top of my head in an hour. It was just stick figures, and I had given so little thought to the thing I had actually drawn it on a cheap, 8-and-a-half-by-11 piece of typing paper that had been lying around (when you look closely you can see where the ink bled into the cheap paper). And of course that was the one Crumb chose to publish.
Getting into WEIRDO gave you a certain cache. Crumb was quite possibly the greatest cartoonist of our times. So to have him accept one of your cartoons was like receiving blessings from the Pope.
I followed every issue of WEIRDO avidly as they came out, all 28 issues from 1981 to 1993. And even though I didn’t get many pages of my comics in it, I had the odd distinction of making it into all three editorial regimes — Crumb, Bagge and Kominsky.
I think one of the great geniuses of Crumb is that he has that follow-his-own-weird, completely-indulge-his-own-artistic-obsessions aspect. Combined with the ability to put out a highly entertaining and commercial product. I think this as much as anything made WEIRDO a double threat.
In typical fashion Crumb went out with a bang with the final issue of WEIRDO, publishing one of his most outrageous and infamous cartoons — “When the Goddamn Niggers and Jews Take Over America.” And I always suspected it had been inspired, in part, by a long-running debate I had been having with Crumb at the time on the pages of my TWISTED IMAGE newsletter (on the subject of the Holocaust Revisionism controversy, white racism, Jewish liberalism, political correctness, and etc.). Not that I was particularly eager to take the credit and/or blame for that one.
So from beginning to end I felt a personal connection to WEIRDO that I never felt towards other publications.
Somebody just sent me a Youtube video of R. Crumb being interviewed at Last Gasp about his WEIRDO comic book. And the interviewer asks: “Robert, who were the most trouble, the most crazy, out-there artists that you worked with?”
Of course ole’ Ace Backwords made the top three. Ha ha. And I’m sure there was a lot of competition for that honor. “Ace Backwords actually threatened to sue Aline,” said Crumb with a laugh.
For the record, here’s the story on that one:
I had submitted some cartoons to WEIRDO. And Aline (Crumb’s wife for those of you keeping score at home), who was the editor at the time, wrote back and said she wanted to publish this one-page cartoon I had sent. But she needed a better quality copy. The thing was actually four different comic strips that I had xeroxed and then copied onto another page. So it was a copy of a copy of a copy. The print quality, of course wasn’t good enough for a truly genius-level publication, such as, say, RAW (who demanded first-generation zipatone from all their cartoonists). But it was certainly good enough for something like WEIRDO. Ha ha.
But what the heck. It was an honor to get into WEIRDO. Plus their pay-rate was something like 50 bucks a page, and I needed the 50 bucks. So I went to the trouble of digging up the four original comic strips, making high-quality xeroxes of them, cutting them out, and laying them out on another piece of paper, and then mailing it off to ole’ Aline at WEIRDO Global H.Q. in Winters, California.
But then when the issue of WEIRDO came out — to my chagrin — my cartoon wasn’t in the issue. So I wrote Aline asking what happened. She didn’t write me back. So I wrote a second letter. And she still didn’t write me back. So after about 4 or 5 months I started to get a little irked. So I decided to punch through her crust. I wrote a third letter where I told her I was considering taking her to small claims court. I mean, after all, she had hired me to do a job. I had done the job. And then, not only didn’t she pay me for the work I had done, she didn’t even bother to give me an explanation. So I was willing to take my case all the way to the Supreme Court, if need be, to recoup my $50 in lost wages (along with possibly an additional $2.8 million in damages for the mental anguish and duress that I had suffered, as well as the damage that this incident had done to my career, my reputation, and my public image, your Honor).
Well, that got Aline’s attention. And she immediately wrote back apologizing to me. Which is all I really wanted. Of course I was never actually going to take her to court. Are you kidding? The only way you could get me into a courtroom is in handcuffs. I just don’t like it when somebody blows me off. And very few people have gotten away with blowing me off. Not even the great Aline Kominksy Crumb. Ha ha.
End of story.
When R. Crumb started his WEIRDO underground comic book back in 1981, I was very excited about the possibility of getting some of my comics published in it. So I spent several weeks working away on a batch of comics to send to him. And I pain-stakingly labored over every panel, to make sure that they were the best comics I could produce.
But for the hell of it, I also threw in this “Dip Shit” cartoon in with the batch of submissions. I had just done the thing on a goof. Hacked it out off the top of my head in about an hour. In fact, I thought so little of the cartoon, I hadn’t even drawn it on the expensive art paper that I usually drew on. I had drawn it on this cheap piece of typing paper that just happened to by lying around on my desk. Some of you old-timers might remember typing paper. It was so cheap, it was practically transparent. And when I looked at the original art I could see where my ink had bled into the cheap paper.
Course that was the strip that Crumb ended up publishing. Ha ha. Crumb really is nutso.